The Power of One Location
Joanne Smalley, Cardain Communications
One of the first things people warn you about when you move to Mallorca, is the price of electricity. They are right; it’s frighteningly expensive.
I have to smile when I think back on my days in Hong Kong. The government of that former British colony had so much cash that they didn’t know what to do with it. So one year they gave about 700 euros to every adult resident. Another two years they gave free electricity to each and every household.
Hard to believe, right? But even when I had to pay for electricity in Hong Kong, it was only about 40 euros a quarter. Oh, the halcyon days of wasteful living. Now I feel I’m being over extravagant every time I switch on the one parsimonious LED lightbulb I use to light up my unheated living room, think English boarding school 1901.
So naturally, when I met Joanne Smalley and heard all about her powerful knowledge about power, I was all agog. Could she get me free electricity, made from household waste? Or wind power? Or anything?
Of course Smalley isn’t in the business of giving away power, although she is a sought-after commodity in the energy and renewables businesses.
But she gives freely of the power and experience she possesses in the group Grow Remote Mallorca. In this group, people who sit isolated and sometimes lonely each in their own little bubble of work, can find like-minded people online and meet them face to face – or screen to screen, at least.
Although fully digitalised, Smalley isn’t a fan of the modern expression ‘digital nomad.’
“When I hear the word nomad, I think of someone who moves around a lot. I would like for people to come and be creative here – and stay here. That’s what Grow Remote Mallorca is all about. People can work individually and remotely, but still be linked.”
She should know. Since 2016 she has been running her own business, Cardain Communications [www.cardaincommunications.co.uk], dealing in Marketing and Communications for Energy as well as Crypto and Blockchain.
Not long after setting up Cardain, she and Neale, her boyfriend, left the UK to run a hotel in the French Alps. Well, he ran the hotel while she hammered away on her laptop, advising government speakers, organising events, running networks. Marketing, marketing.
Heh! You don’t really think of the Alps as a heaving hub of entrepreneurialism, at least I don’t. I think mostly of snow and avalanches. Perhaps the place is great for productivity because there aren’t that many distractions up on the slopes? Still, it goes to show what one can do with a laptop and good wifi nowadays.
“And I did go to the UK once every three to four weeks,” she points out wryly.
“But yes, that winter is where I had my biggest billing month. 2000 metres up in the Alps!”
Of course, she didn’t go straight from nothing to raking it in off-piste.
“ I started in marketing 18 years ago. I suppose it was serendipity that brought me to the energy sector, because actually I have a degree in politics. And I still wouldn’t mind a career in politics – but as it was, I drifted into energy.”
Smalley first worked in events management in Nottingham before moving on to E.ON, one of Britain’s top energy suppliers. She then moved to head up Communications for ELEXON, who manage electricity balancing in the UK.
“I had a team of five people, working with restructuring and rebranding. Those were interesting times!” And yet, after a couple of years she moved over to look after media relations in 2012 to work for EDF – Electricité de France. This was the year of their sponsorship of the UK Olympic Games, as well as during the period the UK government was making decisions about the future of nuclear – a big deal for EdF
After that she worked as a P.R manager for British Gas, and then went agency side but woke up one day thinking: “Hang on, I’m making a lot of money – for others!”
Soon after, she set up her own business, Cardain Communications, specialising in – guess what? Anything to do with energy. And communication, branding, marketing…
“The work seems simple, but maybe that’s because I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years!” says Smalley. “But really, marketing is all about common sense.”
marketing is all about common sense
Now she has clients all over Europe, and, it goes without saying, she can work anywhere. But she has chosen Mallorca as her anywhere.
“Yes, so after the ski season we just drove all the way to Mallorca! Neale’s parents have a house here and are long time residents of the island. This made it so much easier for us to settle in. Initially we lived in Palma, but we wanted to settle, so in August last year bought a house in Santa Margalida, where Neale’s parents live. I will work remotely – of course – and Neale will continue his work as a teacher in Manacor.”
“I love Mallorca. I love the beauty of the place, the pace of life, although sometimes of course it’s infuriating. For someone working in the creative industries, just waking up every morning surrounded by stunning views – it’s so inspiring. And I love the outside lifestyle – the walking, cycling and running. I want to encourage people to come here – to be creative here. Every time I go to the UK I do look forward to it, but then after a while I really look forward to coming back to Mallorca. It already feels like home.”
Smalley is determined to support her new home by helping others build up the local economy.
“If you look at Ireland, where the first Grow Remote group was started, there had long been a brain drain from rural areas. Everybody went to Cork and Dublin. But the Grow Remote ethos is about encouraging people, especially women for whole flexible working is so important, to work remotely because it’s good for the economy of smaller areas. Working remotely instead of commuting, you spend your money locally, keeping the cafés, restaurants and other businesses around you going.”
In her spare time, as if she has any, Smalley helps to support another women’s network, the Women’s Utilities Network.
“ I love helping young women who are just starting out in the energy sector to build confidence in a male-driven business. I help them see the importance of personal branding of marketing themselves. I really enjoy the mentoring side of it.”
Like so many others on the island, she thinks the property market on Mallorca is artificially inflated, and that the economy needs a shot in the arm of start-ups and entrepreneurs that can make the island work all year round.
“The wifi here is great! Mallorca is perfect for remote work.”
Mallorca is perfect for remote work
Don’t we know it! What would we have done without the internet during the lockdown? I contact Smalley to see how she feels about remote work now.
“Of course, we’ve seen a massive acceleration of the remote work movement with the onset of COVID-19. Businesses have suddenly realised that they don’t necessarily need staff in the office full time, and that remote work gives them the ability to cut down on office overheads.
I’m focused on taking as many positives as possible from this really challenging time, and I’m excited about the possibilities that have been opened up for remote workers. We’re not immediately going to switch to everybody remote, but the door has certainly been opened for those who can easily transfer their work to remote to explore other living options outside of ‘commuterville’ and big cities. It’s going to be really interesting to see how people adapt over the coming months and years, and the impact it has on wider society.”